Thursday, July 23, 2015

ABC Shops to close as digital disruption hits Aunty

ABC Shops around the country will be phased out and closed as the national broadcaster moves to an online retail model.

Up to 300 staff employed by the ABC's commercial division through ABC Retail were briefed on the decision in a national video hookup last night.

An ABC spokesman said consultation with ABC Shop staff will take place in the coming months and there will be some redundancies from its workforce which comprises a mix of full time, part time, casual and contract staff.

The ABC currently has 50 stores around the country and 78 ABC Centres in other retail outlets as part of its bricks and mortar portfolio.

As part of the new digital strategy, the ABC will now review its lease arrangements with landlords to develop a model to focus on digital sales through ABC Shop Online and other commercial retailers such as David Jones.

The move by the ABC comes as "digital disruption" continues to rock the retail environment as consumers spend their money through subscription services, downloads and purchase goods online.

The accelerating switch to online purchases means the ABC's costs of maintaining its current retail network has become unviable and that it is no longer possible to sustain a its network of stores.

The ABC's managing director Mark Scott this morning began conducting a series of media interviews and briefings with ABC staff to minimise the potential fallout.

The director of ABC Commercial Robert Patterson acknowledged the importance of ABC Shops in the relationship with ABC audiences over the past 35 years.

"This decision has not been taken lightly. However, this strategy will create a more cost effective, nimble and flexible approach to servicing customers," Mr Patterson said.

"The ABC is confident that this new strategy will ensure continued audience engagement. Consumers will still be able to purchase much loved content both online and in stores."

The planned closure of ABC Shop properties comes after the national broadcaster suffered $254 million in funding cuts which saw the loss of more than 400 staff.

The additional job losses will be handled through a consultative process which began with last night's briefings with ABC Shop staff according to the head of ABC Retail Regina Hoekstra.

"The welfare of our staff will be a primary focus over the next few months. We are conscious that the ABC Shop is close to the hearts of our teams and we appreciate their ongoing hard work and dedication," Ms Hoekstra said.

"ABC Shop is a trusted brand with a strong product offer, loyal customers and an engaged, committed team. ABC Retail will continue to adapt to an ever-changing retail climate in order to provide a sustainable retailing experience for customers."

The decision to move away from bricks and mortar comes as the ABC remains embroiled in controversy after the Q&A program allowed convicted criminal, Zaky Mallah, into the live studio audience last month and question a Government frontbencher.

The ABC has admitted that was an "error of judgement" and the show's executive producer Peter McEvoy has been issued a formal warning.

An ABC spokesman said any forecast losses through the ABC Shop network would not be covered by taxpayer funds.

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